The VVitch, 2015

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The VVitch was so creepy to me the first time I didn’t sleep at all that night.

It also focuses on historical accuracy, has a gorgeously eerie soundtrack, and depicts the struggle of one family who leaves their fortified Puritan town due to religious disagreements. It is not a cheap-trick sort of film, but rather draws you in by looking you straight in the eyes.

I’d highly recommend and it’s on Netflix right now (Canadian Netflix, which is notoriously pathetic, that is).

Read & consume: A list.

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Lusting after this WWII-era lingerie set that men stationed overseas would send to their sweethearts.

Reading The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt and falling in love with his descriptions of Rome and Florence in the 14th century. If you’re interested in humanism, how The Renaissance may have happened, or are a book lover, the main protagonist, Poggio Bracciolini is compelling as a great angle to dissect this amazing wave of art, creativity, and flourishing discovery that emerged from Florence at some point in the late 14th/early 15th century.

Quietly pining for the funds to have a house covered in this Cardiac wallpaper from the Morbid Anatomy Museum. I’ve slowly accepted that if there is a point where funds are available, I will make any abode I have into an ode to all things Gothic and mildly creepy.

Waiting to be home so Logan and I can attempt to make this Nutella and mascarpone torte. (The recipe is in Italian but Google Translate is very handy!)

Loving these flirtatious and forward acquaintance cards from the 1870’s and 1880’s. Young men and women could hand out these business card like pieces of paper which offer to walk women home, introduce men as “kissing rogues”, and serve as ways to circumvent some of the formalities of Victorian norms.

Been wanting to watch this wonderful film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, for some time! Hopefully I’ll find time in a few weeks.

I may or may not have splurged and gotten myself this incredible Opening Ceremony x Kodak hat because everything else in the collection was way too pricey. My love for Kodak and film will never, ever die.

Laughing out loud at the marvelous James Kerr (aka Scorpion Dagger) and his German Renaissance-based short videos, .gifs, and other creations which he cleverly pairs with 1960’s and 70’s rock/punk/garage band tunes (and from whom I have now widely expanded my musical repetoire). This clever dude also got to do some of the animation for the new The Stooges film Gimme Danger (which I very much want to see).

Mario Badescu’s glycolic foaming cleanser has been helping me keep my skin happy with the transition to colder, dryer winter.

Also finished The Medici Conspiracy, a fantastic book about the complex world of stealing, buying, and selling ancient Roman and Greek antiquities. The authors weave a “whodunit” web of tombaroli (local men who “excavate” tombs) to secretive buyers with Swiss lockers full of stolen goods to curators at some of the world’s most renowned museums, who all work quietly together to make it so that much of the world’s ancient antiquities are gotten by ill, destructive, and horrible means.

You’re a piece of (art) work.

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A year ago we convened in Seattle to go to a fantastic gig and revel in one another’s company. We ate good food, saw gorgeous art, and had a blast.

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My life right now is nothing but writing, reading, editing, eating, and sleeping. I’d rather have it include a Primal Scream show with some good people. C’est la vie. Instead, here’s some pictures of art that we saw in the Seattle Art Museum last November.

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It is very important to know how to be alone.

I was almost flat broke, determined to spend the last of my money on a ticket to Zurich. I was, after all, meant to celebrate my own birthday, yes, and 20 is big deal! And seeing as I didn’t want to be around humans, it would be better to be around art. Calculating that there was indeed enough money for a museum ticket and a train ticket, the decision was made.

I packed a large bag with two cameras, a book, some snacks, and walked to the train station to catch the train to Zurich. Due to Swiss geography, one does not get to stay on the train from Lugano the whole way to Zurich. After going through Bellinzona, then the steep Gotthard Pass, which is quite an engineering feat, the train stops at windy, lonely, tiny Arth-Goldau, a transit station where you have about 2 minutes to scramble and find the train that will take you to your final destination. Arth-Goldau is freezing cold in the winter, smack dab in the middle of Switzerland, and when you stop there it feels deserted and almost surreal.

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That is Arth-Goldau as I walked across the way to my train. I know, such a crisp photograph! (Please forgive the thin lines on many of the photographs- something with my camera, probably the backing plate, scratched thin lines onto several rolls!)

From there, I settled onto the final train. Rolling into Zurich, through graffiti-filled tunnels, the train parked and I got off. I had earlier researched which tram to get on and found the #3 with little effort. Paying for my ticket, I headed straight to the Kunsthaus Zurich, the city’s fantastic museum. Museums have always been one of my favorite ways to spend time solo.

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I spent the morning and early afternoon there, looking at everything from Piet Mondrian to medieval Madonnas. If my faulty, human memory serves me, it wasn’t crowded. I was allowed to have entire rooms to myself. In one room, a spider descended from the ceiling right in front of me, as though to have a better picture of the bright blue and white Fernand Leger painting we were both admiring. This is the only living, breathing thing I shared my experience with willingly.

Living abroad, one discovers the importance of being able to be alone. How to be alone, not lonely, and if you are lonely, to corral the loneliness somewhere else so that your living hours are not spent in sorrow. As I walked around the Altstadt (Old Town), past buildings that had lived through 500+ years of events, I passed art galleries and fashion boutiques. Carts of beautiful books for sale sat outside large, sunny shop windows. I thumbed through a few, unable to even think of buying anything. Languages from every corner of the earth were heard, mixed with the local Schweizerdeutsch, echoed from wood-beamed buildings. I will never not be bored of being in old places. This walls of these buildings had so many stories to tell, and the people who lived in them and worked in them surely could echo my sentiments. Wandering, listening, watching, are all wonderful things to do alone.

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It was a beautiful day- sunny but not too bright, a spring morning full of that omnipresent optimism that Primavera brings. Being able to wander with no time limits, no need to do anything, was perfect. I stopped outside churches, walked by the river, people-watched, and spent the whole day going wherever felt right. It was marvelous to do so.

Although this was over 5 years ago that broke girl and I are still very much alike. Being alone has become more and more normal. My friends, scattered across the globe like seeds, exist often on the fringes of my life, and my beloved partner is also geographically quite distant. Museums are still a place I go to escape reality and to embrace it, and I have been saving a weekend just so I can go to the museum here on a rainy, awful day.

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Although the formula isn’t perfect, I do know how to be alone quite well, and it is very important to know how to do so. Especially in our lives, where it is so easy to feel despair and embrace negativity, knowing how to fortify yourself with books, Skype dates, plenty of sleep, and spontaneous adventures will keep you going for longer than you think.

Also, fair warning, but this might be one of a few escapist-like pieces. The world right now is a vicious thing, and the teeth and claws normally hidden behind lips and under fur are gleaming everywhere I look.

Self care and simmering anger

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In the midst of this flooding of fear and preparation and grief for things that haven’t even yet occurred there is the reality- that I wake up, eat breakfast, and live. Exist. Not thrive, exactly, but survive. That is the goal right now.

Clarice Lispector has been quietly reassuring me that slogging through the shit is normal, and that the burning in my veins, this quiet simmering of anger, is an aspect of being human. I read books about other times, the past, times that are not now. I quietly try to avoid the news. I prepare Christmas gifts of donations to organizations that will be helping people who become further disenfranchised or who need medical care or who have other challenges that will become larger as this horrendous transition of power takes place. 30890160066_bf31453771_c

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I apply my lipstick and drink coffee and watch a parade of servicemen, marching for Remembrance Day here in Canada. I again mentally wish I was home for the millionth time, that I was able to be with people who feel the same thing. I almost cry thinking of my loved ones back home. I write the shoddy, weak beginnings of poems that will be honed and slowly fortified with the correct words. I am unable to do my research and writing at the same pace I was, as I feel like my brain is frozen to only a few subjects. This will fade and it must soon. 22747847648_d272ec8340_c

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There is a ginkgo tree on Yates street that delights me. It is so yellow, unabashedly so, and it charms me with it’s enthusiasm for the season, and seems unaffected by everything around it. The natural world does what it has always done- adapts and moves on. I envy the tidal pools I peer into as the sun goes down. I relish the soft feel of leaves in my hands, knowing the trees do not understand what is happening just across the strait in my home country. It began to rain, quietly at first, after I left the drugstore with a candle, a silly purchase but something about a flame in close quarters is comforting.

It all continues and we hold our heads high and love one another more fiercely than ever before.

Not my president.

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I didn’t leave my bed until 4 pm today. I woke up with puffy eyes after sobbing intermittently until about 2 am. So many of my friends and family have a lot to lose with this new order. I have been crying on and off today, sleeping a lot, and trying to not fear the worst. I am also quietly incubating a lot of rage I am excited to properly channel.

I finally crawled out of bed, put on a hat, and went outside. Thick fog had infested my neighborhood and as I breathed the air felt heavier. It was chilly and getting dark quickly. I knew I needed to be by the ocean.

The quiet lull of the waves, the clinking of large driftwood knocking together in the water, the sound of seagulls and the foghorns of large ships as they navigate the strait- these are the things that keep me sane.

I am in Canada, not home, right now. I wish I were home. I wish I were able to join a protest of Americans and actively voice my anger and feelings of betrayal. I will stay alive and loud out of pure spite. That small mess of a man, who has had everything handed to him, who violates women, who crows about his racism and sexism and bigoted ideas, has it coming. There are many of us who will refuse to accept him and his disgusting ways. There are many of us marching tonight, refusing to accept the status quo.

Initial thoughts of what is happening.

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Tonight, millions of Americans failed their fellow Americans. They voted for a President who incites hate and fear. He encourages bigotry, sexism, racism, and ignorance. He represents the worst of us.

What will happen now?

Those of us who have been under fire as long as we have known will once again put up defenses. We will support and love each other. We will be more vocal than ever. We will protect each other and try to weaken each blow that comes our way. We will call our representatives and senators and try to do our damned best to not let this complete travesty effect our lives any more than it has to.

This is fucking awful. I’m sorry, world.

Let it wash over me- the Nostalgia post.

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How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?

I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.

I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.

In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)

Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.

And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?

I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.

Home for a brief moment

Flying into Montana at its ugliest reminds me how much I love it despite how dry and brown it is at this time of year. Hunting season is out and about, with men and women decked out in camouflage in the grocery stores and gas stations, likely just returning from a day in the mountains or fields, meandering buying milk and other things. I had forgotten about this simple aspect of life home.

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I missed driving, the 12oz glasses of Blackfoot IPA, the inevitable seeing of people I knew, because it was all familiar. Ultra-crunch leaves were everywhere, bare trees ready to embrace coats of snow. Bob Ross, the tree in Logan’s backyard, looked eerie and naked without his beautiful leaves. We had a fire on my last day, which Ella stoked to perfection. The wind made it a mercurial joy to have around, switching directions quickly, threatening to singe one or more of us. I was able to hold warm cups of coffee with loved ones close by. I hugged my sister, surprised my parents with my visit, and slept in. It was beautiful, and like all lovely things, quick, far too quick for my liking.

Parmigiana di Melanzane

I grew up in a family that didn’t relish cooking. My mum is an incredible baker, whipping out apple pies, cookies, brownies, and other oven-based confections to perfection. She can cook, and I know that she and my father do more now that their spawn are out of the house. My father today makes curries, cans carrots, makes his own cider, and butchers the animals he hunts.

However, growing up, I don’t remember food being so prominent. My mother explained it in the most reasonable way when I asked her once, telling me that after getting us out the door to school, working full time, then coming home to make dinner, making dinner was a chore, not a gleeful reprieve, as I’m sure many women can attest to. I do not begrudge her this in any way, understanding and loathing the idea that women can and should have it all, including cooking skills that come out as soon as you close the office door, because you love slaving over a hot stove for hungry, picky kids.

However, my only living grandmother doesn’t cook. My remaining grandfather doesn’t either. My aunts in Connecticut cook, often reporting what they’re whipping up, but in my immediate family food is appreciated but not often lovingly made except on holidays or special occasions.

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Perhaps this is why I love cooking with Logan so much. I hear stories of family members spending all day in kitchens, of special pizza ovens, of flavors and ideas I’ve never known before. Bottles of red palm oil, special coconut milks, and dende milk can be found tucked away on his shelves, things I’ve never used or known. The cuts of meat are different here in America, which I had never thought about before. He teaches me how to do ridiculously simple things like how to properly cook rice and that cooking can be a joyful, organic process. We listen to music and have a glass of wine or two and taste as we go.

My brief sojourn home was spent in his kitchen with him, helping keep odds and ends going- soaking the starch of jasmine rice, grating parmesan cheese, scraping out small meaty pumpkins, stirring onions in olive oil for flavors, helping strain broth- and whenever I play sous chef I learn.

The best dish we made this weekend was a parmigiana di melanzane, which Logan found by watching Gennaro Contaldo videos online. It. Was. AMAZING.

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We picked out a beautiful, fat eggplant in the most gorgeous purple sheen at the grocery store. I had never actually handled an eggplant but it was really lovely and lighter than I expected. Logan sliced it up, beat an egg in a bowl, put flour in another, and got some oil frying, and it all began. We sipped Czech pilsners we’d picked up at a local beer and wine import shop, and a breeze came in from outside, crisp leaves on the back porch telling me that it was fall.

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After the eggplant fried we tore pieces of prosciutto and mozzarella and basil and rolled them up inside, laying down a bed of tomato sauce in a ceramic dish and then carefully placing the rolled tubes down. Covering them in more sauce, Logan piled on more mozzarella, some parmesan, sprinkles of basil, and put it all in to bake.

Trying to describe how good it was would be a waste of English. It was rich and perfect. We were the happiest, most full creatures after we ate it. It wasn’t difficult, and it was damn delicious.

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Creepy goodness: Ghostly Walks

“This is the time of year when the barrier between the living and the dead gets thinner”, our Quebecois guide crooned to us as we sat in a dark stone room, waiting to venture into the cool evening. It had just rained, leaving everything with a layer of chill. We separated into two groups, and went off to learn about a select few of Victoria’s many, many hauntings.

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Victoria is known as one of the most haunted places in the Pacific Northwest. It comes as no surprise- Victoria was a major port city, took on many people from the Klondike Gold Rush, and had people from every corner of the globe coming here for a wide variety of reasons. One of my favorite places in the city, the Ross Bay Cemetery, has gravestones from all over the world commemorating people who came to make their lives here.

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The nights in Victoria get very, very cold and as we were told stories of prostitutes murdered, criminals hanged and left in unmarked graves that were later dug up unceremoniously, and the atrocities that white men committed by desecrating sacred First Nations burial grounds, it was easy to imagine people from the past quietly nearby, ducking down the dark streets and walking down hallways that they did in real life.

These stories could feel hokey or sappy but large parts of downtown Victoria are murky feeling and damp. These spaces are like things sprouting in secret, dark corners and it was very easy to imagine dark things happening and lingering.

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As somebody who finds walking at night peaceful and balancing, almost necessary to my sanity, hearing these stories was a bit creepy to be sure. However, I grew up in a mining town where equally harsh things happened, where people lived and died quickly, and that partially makes Victoria feel a bit more familiar. I can understand the gold rush and the resource extraction and people living roughly, the conflicts between cultures, the unrest that underlies all of this. Our guide, Chris Adams, was very good at making this sense of unrest clear, and he was delightfully serious about it all. I almost asked him for a photograph of his skull-headed cane but didn’t get the chance.

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On a 7 mile walk

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There were words here that I meant to expand upon about being soft and kind and letting yourself feel all the feels but I couldn’t write what my mind was thinking well enough to let it linger here. Suffice to say, it’s gone now.

I went on a very long walk the other day after a long day working and encountered lots of small moments in humanity that made me feel good. I walked a long, long way and went home and slept like a rock and it felt right. Long walks always put things right with me.

 

Habit Coffee

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My first experience with Habit Coffee happened last fall, as an eager newcomer to Victoria. From the charming exterior to the well-lit interior, it seemed a likely spot for me to enjoy. When I inquired about WiFi at the counter (trying to deduce some good study locations) I was given a look as though I had just whispered Voldermort’s name to a wizard. “We. Don’t. Have. WiFi.”, the barista practically hissed. WiFi, it seems, is anathema to everything Habit Coffee stands for.

And yet, despite this initial rather acidic welcoming, Habit Coffee has somehow remained a place I go when I’m out of sorts, can’t stand to look at a computer screen, and just want to read or write at a small table with a cup of coffee or a hot tea. The vibe at the smaller Chinatown location is, like many Victoria places, eclectic, but simple. They’ve got great magazines to thumb through (I recently discovered the joy of Frankie magazine, a wonderful Australian creation!) and overall it’s a space that feels welcoming and warm, has decent and decently priced coffee, and offers respite from the busy streets downtown.